Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth
Painting in the Church of El Sitio, Suchitoto, El Salvador

(Advent 4C)


39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1: 39-45)

Remember the story. Mary, the young maiden, betrothed to Joseph, probably planning her wedding and dreaming of her life to come, was approached by an angel. Now the Scriptures seem to lead us to believe that an angel coming was not that extraordinary but I’m thinking that angel-coming stories are grossly over-represented in the Bible because, frankly, it’s at best a little surprising and, to be honest, downright disconcerting. So, the angel, after calming her down (our clue that this was NOT an ordinary incident), asked her to do one thing—just one thing—to birth the salvation of the world. (Sure, no problem!) Just one thing. But here’s the catch, Mary: your life will never again be what it is now; your life will be one of extremes—incredible joy and the most profound grief that you can possibly imagine; your life will be nothing like what you’ve planned for it to be. Your life will be one full of moving from place to place and really never again feeling at home. There will be times when you are running from things and times when you are searching. And it may be lonely, oh so lonely. And, no hurry, except that we really need to have an answer now because, frankly, all this time that we’ve waited, all this time that we’ve hoped, all this time that we’ve prepared has now ended. Now is the time. But, other than that, no hurry. Take your time. And the world stopped, if only for a moment…

So, Mary, not really sure of what she was getting into, agreed. This young maiden who the world doesn’t even know will birth the Savior, will become part of the redemption of the world. So, the angel left and Mary stood there. What in the world have I done? I mean, I love God and all, I want to serve God, but what in the world have I done? So, she runs. She runs to a place where she knew they would take her in, where they would hold her, where they would love her. Elizabeth would have been surprised. After all, it’s not like Mary could text her and tell her she was coming! And when Mary entered, she knew. The child inside her knew. The world knew. The angels’ gossip line was going crazy! After all, the world was with child.

And then Elizabeth took Mary in her arms. After all, this was not going to be easy. The world expects so much and is sometimes incredibly unforgiving, expecting too much, No one knew the road that lay ahead for the young girl but it didn’t matter. Elizabeth would be with her, to hold her, to love her, to listen to her as she worked things through.

You know, that’s really what it means to be blessed—not to be showered with riches or surrounded by happiness or, God forbid, to have our lives turn out the way we plan, but rather to be held and loved as you walk this journey that God has laid before each of us. Mary’s journey mirrors ours. God calls us to change our lives, to sometimes let go of our plans and our dreams and trade them in for what God envisions that we can be. And it is there that we will be blessed. So, THIS Advent, may you be truly blessed!

Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of Creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so that he can speak words of love to them and let his tired arms rest on their shoulders. His only desire is to bless. (Henri J.M. Nouwen)


Grace and Peace,



The Next Chapter

Manger and cross

(Advent 4C)

5Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” 8When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrew 10: 5-10)

So why did God come? Why did the Divine make a way into the ordinary? Why did the Creator of the world, the Maker of all that is, come and dwell within Creation and hang around with the muck and mire of the world? So many times this passage is read as if God somehow traded one world for another, as if God somehow felt the need to start over on the grand plan that God had previously proclaimed as “Good”. Does that really make sense? Did Christ come into the world as a “do-over”, as if what God had so lovingly begun had somehow failed?

I don’t think God is throwing away the old order; I think God is continuing to create it. God is always continuing to create, not to exchange one way of being for another but to change one way of being into another. God was always coming into the world. There were incarnations all along the pathway, if we had only dared to open our eyes and notice. But then it was time for the next chapter for those of us who were called to that part of the story. And what had begun with God’s goodness and God’s mercy and the holiness of the Divine continued, bringing a new order to the whole story.

Christmas did not begin nor end with the manger. The shepherds and the visiting kings did not drop their baby presents off and go back to their lives. As Christians, Christmas is our entrance into the story, into something relevant, into faith, into a story that will take us to Golgotha and then home. It does not replace the part of the story that Abraham brought to us; rather, for us, it brings us into it. And from there, we continue on. So, in a way, Christmas is our birth as much as it is Jesus’. So, in eight days, on that holiest of nights, when you light your candle and sing “Silent Night”, do not look at it as the beginning of the story, but rather the chapter in which you come to be, the very dawn of redeeming grace spilling into a waiting story-filled earth.

Christmas did not come after a great mass of people had completed something good, or because of the successful result of any human effort. No, it came as a miracle, as the child that comes when his time is fulfilled, as a gift of God which is laid into those arms that are stretched out in longing. In this way did Christmas come; in this way it always comes anew, both to individuals and to the whole world. (Eberhard Arnold)


Grace and Peace,